1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On the Pleasures of Poetry.

The Florence Miscellany.

William Parsons


In fourteen quatrains William Parsons sets forth his poetical creed and calls the roll of his fellow Della Cruscans. The poem opens with the character of a poetical enthusiast ("Where'er they stray beneath propitious skies, | Soft musick trills, etherial forms appear; | Visions withheld but from poetic eyes, | And sounds that only greet the purged ear") and closes with a catalogue of poets from which the group drew inspiration: Milton, Gray, Hayley, and Collins. Such expressions of mutual regard became characteristic of Della Cruscan poetry more broadly considered, and an object of attack in William Gifford's Baviad, which excoriated the affectations of the group.

Author's note: "Eartham in Sussex, the seat of Mr. Hayley the author of several celebrated modern Poets, tho' beautified by his taste is naturally exposed and barren — the Lavant is a stream that flows under the walls of Chichester and is so very insignificant, that it's channel is sometimes entirely dry; yet the masterly compositions of Collins, who lived in that neighborhood have made it vye with the most distinguished rivers of antiquity" p. 136n.

Edward E. Bostetter: "In the midst of praising his friends ... he suddenly falls into self-disparagement and says that he himself had hoped to find inspiration in Italy, but in vain, because genius is necessary to inspiration.... We may call this no more than proper humility on the part of a man who was not a good poet, but here in its crudest form is a theme common to all the great Romantics. At one time or another they describe as the source of the poet's power, in Coleridge's words, not the 'outward forms' but the 'fountains within' and lament their lack or loss of the power. In Parsons, the attitude of humility or false humility (usually a mixture of both) is constantly recurring. Confronted by the great poets of the past, he is aware of his own inadequacy" "The Original Della Cruscans" Huntington Library Quarterly 19 (1956) 287.



Let the dull wretch, upon whose natal hour
Nor Muse nor Grace bestow'd one genial ray,
Blame all pursuits but those of wealth and power,
And damn to scorn the Bard's sublimest lay.

Yet are there joys to vulgar souls unknown,
Unfelt by those who view them with disdain,
Joys by the sacred Muse reserv'd alone
For them the fav'rites of her blissful reign.

Not that their brows with laurel wreath are bound,
And listening crouds their choral plaudits raise;
Not that proud Fame's wide-echoing trump shall sound
To spread from pole to pole their deathless praise.

But that of Heav'n belov'd, and Fancy-blest,
All Nature to their eye appears more bright;
Her every charm with rapture fills their breast,
And not a grace eludes their piercing sight.

Their eye's "fine phrensy" marks her ample reign,
Entranc'd they bend before each awful form;
The dark-brow'd forest, and the boundless main,
The cloud-capt mountain, and the whelming storm.

For them more beauteous smiles the vernal day,
And brighter tints adorn the rural bowers;
'Tis theirs to rove thro' scenes for ever gay,
And cull Imagination's fairest flowers.

Chants the lone throstle at the close of day,
Or shines the dew-drop on the morning rose,
Or breathes the wood-bine on their noon-tide way,
No common transport in their bosom glows.

Where'er they stray beneath propitious skies,
Soft musick trills, etherial forms appear;
Visions withheld but from poetic eyes,
And sounds that only greet the purged ear.

Shall then the rigid critic's wrinkled brow,
Shall simp'ring Folly's vain contemptuous sneer,
Bid us no more our ardent hopes avow,
And damp the rising glow with chilling fear?

Not so my Friends — while these gay scenes ye rove,
Where youthful MILTON nurs'd his growing flame;
Where GRAY in Fancy's loom his raptures wore;
Pursue the track that leads to living Fame.

As when to Glory's seats the prophet flew
To his lov'd friend the mantle he resign'd,
JOHNSON, blest shade! shall his on PIOZZI view,
His nervous sense with female softness join'd.

Thy cypress wreath, Melpomene, to gain
GREATHEED shall scorn thro' meaner walks to stray,
And MERRY pour his ever-varying strain,
Crown'd by each Muse the serious and the gay.

I too, allur'd by love of lofty rhime,
Left the white cliff where Britain's surges roar;
And much I hop'd from this inspiring clime,
ARNO'S rich vale, and TIBER'S classic shore.

Haply, I said, the Muse may there be found,
By me, vain thought! to Genius close allied,
For him, with equal force she breathes around
EARTHAM'S chill seat, and LAVANT'S scanty tide.

[pp. 134-36]